Notes and takeaways from Arizona Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez’s weekly Monday news conference at the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility, plus some recruiting news:
* Three-star defensive end Adam Plant of Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High has re-committed to Arizona, the Star has confirmed. Plant previously committed to the Wildcats in spring before backing out in June. 247Sports.com first reported Plant’s re-commitment. He is listed at 6-3, 225 pounds and projects to defensive end or “Stud” in Arizona’s scheme. Arizona has only one defensive tackle committed for 2018 and would like to add more before the Dec. 20-22 early signing period.
* UA coach Rich Rodriguez said injuries along the defensive line are a “concern” heading into Saturday’s game at Arizona State. All three UA starters went down at Oregon. “We’re looking at any and all options,” Rodriguez said. Those do not include defensive tackle Sione Taufahema, who is redshirting, Rodriguez said. I’ll have more on the D-line situation later today.
* One player who should be back is Parker Zellers, who sat out last week after violating a team rule. Rodriguez indicated that Zellers would return if he fulfills the obligations of his punishment.
* Rodriguez gave credit to Oregon, especially its offensive line, but said Arizona made “some uncharacteristic mistakes” during its 48-28 loss in Eugene last week. The Wildcats have “a lot of things to fix” this week, Rodriguez said.
* Rodriguez erupted in anger after Dane Cruikshank taunted an Oregon player, wiping out a touchdown. I asked Rodriguez if that’s the maddest he’s been in a game. “If it’s not, it’s in the top two,” he said.
* Rodriguez is hoping the Wildcats can find the right mix of competitiveness and intensity without crossing the line against the Sun Devils. He wants his team to be aggressive but to stay “within the framework of the rules,” which didn’t always happen at Oregon.
* Rodriguez thought Khalil Tate and the offense “pressed a little bit” in the second half against the Ducks. That includes tailback J.J. Taylor, who sometimes tries to make big plays at the expense of smaller gains.
* Rodriguez said the Oregon game will be a learning experience for Tate. Rodriguez also said the coaching staff could do more to help him out when certain plays aren’t working.
* Tate did not make the top three for the Maxwell (College Player of the Year) or Davey O’Brien (nation’s best QB) awards. He had been named a semifinalist for both.
* Arizona’s uncharacteristic mistakes at Oregon included several dropped passes. “Every drop of big play missed can hurt you” in a game like that, Rodriguez said.
* Although it counts as only one game, Rodriguez said the Territorial Cup has an “added importance” because it’s the one fans are most passionate about and the one players hear about the most the other 364 days of the year.
* Unlike other conference road games, the entire team will travel to Tempe, Rodriguez said. Whether they’re playing or not, Rodriguez wants all of his players to get a feel for the intensity of the rivalry.
* Rodriguez said the outcome of the Territorial Cup is “overrated” from a recruiting standpoint but acknowledged that the game is a bigger deal for in-state recruits.
* Rodriguez and his staff will hit the recruiting trail next week. They would have done so even without the new early signing date, but its existence creates “a certain urgency,” Rodriguez said.
* Rodriguez acknowledged that the struggles of the punting unit are more mental than physical. “If you talk too much about it, it becomes more mental,” he said. “They’ve got to trust their ability.”
* Rodriguez said he “wasn’t aware” that former US tailback Orlando Bradford was sentenced to five years in prison Monday after pleading guilty to two felony counts of aggravated assault. He was dismissed from the program last September.
* Rodriguez said the biggest challenge of next year’s schedule is the Wildcats’ late bye. They will play 10 consecutive games before getting a week off.